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Elliott, Charles Hazell (1882–1956)

by Rodney K. Quinn

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Charles Hazell Elliott (1882-1956), soldier and clerk, was born on 19 August 1882 in Hobart, son of Robert Elliott, corn and produce merchant, and his wife Sophia, née Hazell. He was educated at The Friends' School, Hobart, and joined the clerical staff of the Australian Mutual Provident Society on 21 December 1898. In 1906 he joined the Derwent Regiment, Australian Military Forces (militia), was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1907 and promoted captain in 1911.

With the outbreak of World War I Elliott enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 August 1914 and in October embarked as captain in command of 'A' Company, 12th Battalion. He was promoted major in Egypt in January 1915. Within hours of the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April he took command of the battalion following the wounding of Lieutenant-Colonel S. Hawley and the death of Colonel L. F. Clarke. Then Elliott too was wounded in the left shoulder and arm, and after treatment in the field was eventually invalided to England in June. He returned in September and was temporarily promoted to lieutenant-colonel in command of the battalion. His rank and command were confirmed on 1 March 1916 and he led the 12th Battalion for the rest of the war.

On 29 March the battalion left Egypt for the Western Front and in July and August fought at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In November-December the unit was engaged in trench warfare on the Somme and in April 1917 saw action at Bullecourt. On 15 April the Germans launched a surprise attack at Lagnicourt which threatened the battalion's headquarters. Elliott quickly organized the defence, showing 'a wonderful example of leadership, sangfroid and enthusiasm'. The London Gazette wrote: 'Although the enemy had penetrated our line, and were within 500 yards (457 m) of Battalion Headquarters, he took up a position with batmen, cooks and signallers and checked the enemy's advance, thus enabling the counter-attacking to come forward and drive the enemy back. His action at a most critical time turned what might have been a defeat into a victory'. He had been wounded in the head and did not resume command until 10 May.

Other operations that Elliott took part in during 1917-18 included Hill 60, Polygon Wood, Strazeele, Zonnebeke and Broodseinde. In August 1918 he was wounded again at Lihons, suffering gun-shot injuries to the left arm and chest. Many times between May 1917 and February 1919 he temporarily commanded the 3rd Infantry Brigade for short periods. For his war service he was mentioned in dispatches three times and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the New Year honours of 1917 and a Bar next June for his work at Lagnicourt. He was also appointed C.M.G. and received the Légion d'honneur. His A.I.F. appointment ended in August 1919.

Elliott was appointed commander of the 2nd Battalion, 40th Infantry Regiment, A.M.F. (militia) in 1920 and the 12th Infantry Brigade in 1922 with the temporary rank of colonel; he was placed on the reserve of officers in 1930. After the war he continued to work for the A.M.P. Society as a cashier and later as a claims officer until his retirement in 1945. In London on 20 December 1917 he had married Alice Gordon King, a sister in the Australian Army Nursing Service. They had one son, Charles Gordon (b.1925).

In private life Elliott was devoted to home and garden. He was also a keen sportsman and after the war held executive positions with the Hobart Harrier Club, the Tasmanian Amateur Athletic and Boxing associations and the Derwent Rowing Club. He was a Freemason from 1911. Survived by his wife and son, he died at his home in New Town, Hobart, on 27 April 1956 of cerebro-vascular disease and was cremated.

Elliott was a gallant soldier, always concerned for the well-being of those under his command. A schoolmate wrote of him in the April 1919 edition of The Friends' School journal: 'The best of Charlie is that, however many decorations he gets, he alters not a bit. Each time a fresh decoration is presented to him he lines the whole battalion up, shows them the medal and says, “Here you are, boys; have a look at this. You won it, not I”. What more could men expect of their commander?'

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • L. M. Newton, The Story of the Twelfth (Hob, 1925)
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • W. N. Oats, The Rose and the Waratah (Hob, 1979)
  • London Gazette, 29 Dec 1916, 2 Jan, 18 June, 28 Dec 1917, 28 May, 3 June, 17 Aug 1918
  • Mercury (Hobart), 28 Apr 1956
  • C. H. Elliott papers (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • private information.

Citation details

Rodney K. Quinn, 'Elliott, Charles Hazell (1882–1956)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/elliott-charles-hazell-6102/text10455, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 29 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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